Bend Oregon Blog | The Bend Buzz by Visit Bend
On September 23, Mt. Bachelor became the first ski area in North America to offer skiing and snowboarding in advance of the 2017-18 winter season when an early storm dumped more than a foot of snow.
Though that was only for a weekend, they followed it up this week by announcing for the first time in ten years that they’ll open the weekend before Thanksgiving. November 18 is the big day, guys!
It’s fabulous news for snow fans, and Mt. Bachelor is sweetening the deal with some awesome sales happening right now.
But Mt. Bachelor isn’t the only Bend entity enjoying noteworthy “firsts” this winter. Here are three more worth having on your radar for winter 2017-18.
Riley Ranch Nature Reserve becomes Bend’s first bike-free, dog-free park
But for recreation enthusiasts seeking a quieter, more wildlife-filled park experience, the opening of Riley Ranch Nature Reserve in December is an exciting event.
Riley Ranch is a 184-acre nature reserve featuring 35 acres of canyon floor and a 30-acre band of rimrock cliffs on the northwest edge of Bend. This mostly rugged terrain is a near-to-home nature experience unlike others provided by Bend Park and Recreation District. From its unique location adjacent to the Deschutes River, Riley Ranch Nature Reserve offers dramatic views of the Cascade Mountain Range and the river canyon.
The park’s size and location, coupled with a lack of dogs and bikes, means you’re much more likely to get close-up views of wildlife you may not see in Bend’s other parks. It should be an awesome spot for hiking and trail running, so put it on your calendar to visit this winter.
The High Desert Museum shows off their Pacific Lamprey
Ever seen a Pacific Lamprey?
Probably not, unless you’ve visited the High Desert Museum recently. That’s because they’re the first museum in Oregon to partner with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation to have the Pacific Lamprey on exhibit.
Lamprey have a rich cultural history with the tribal groups of the Columbia Plateau, but the fish have lost much of their native habitat. They’re bizarre looking creatures, but vitally important to High Desert river ecosystems and have a fascinating biology and natural history. Visiting the High Desert Museum right now is your chance to get a close look at this unique animal.
If that’s not a cool enough achievement for you, the High Desert Museum also has a Western Screech Owl named William who is believed to be the oldest living screech owl in captivity. The previous record is 13 years, but William’s history with the High Desert Museum goes back to 1997 when he arrived as an adult after being hit by a car. He’s retired from being on exhibit now, but you can feel happy knowing he’s there enjoying his golden years while you’re busy scoping out the Lamprey.
Bend’s first car returns to the Deschutes Historical Museum
Here’s one for the history buffs: This December, the first car that ever came to Bend will go back on display after spending time on the road for the county centennial.
The car is a 1907 Holsman, and following a tune-up, it will reappear at the Deschutes Historical Museum so you can get a close look at it.
Keep an eye on their Facebook page for the announcement of when the car goes back on display. To learn more about the background of Bend’s first car, check out this awesome video.
Ugh. I’m not ready for winter.
Here’s where I confess I sometimes fall in the second camp. I love Bend summers, and since I’m not a skier, I occasionally find I’m less-than-thrilled about winter’s arrival.
But then I take a step back and remind myself of all the awesome reasons that Bend winters ROCK—even for non-skiers. Here are six of them.
Find fun ways to stay warm
We’re accustomed to chilly weather in Bend, so we have oodles of creative ways to get warm.
If snuggling by a fireplace is your idea of fun, you’ll find dozens of fire pits scattered all over town, including an awesome collection of them around the Old Mill District. At Crux Fermentation Project, you can cozy up by the fire and enjoy a belly-warming pint and a Grilled Cheesy sandwich. Check out this blog post for more ideas on where to find fire pits around Bend.
If soaking your bones sounds like a good way to beat the chill, McMenamins Old St. Francis School boasts a beautiful tile soaking pool surrounded by shimmering turquoise tile, luminous stained glass, breathtaking murals, and an open-air ceiling that lets you check out the night sky. You’ll also find that plenty of Bend hotels and vacation homes have on-site hot tubs.
To warm yourself from the inside out, pick up some spiced rum from Oregon Spirit Distillers to mix with hot cider, or try blending Bendistillery’s Hazelnut Espresso Vodka with some warm cocoa and a dollop of whipped cream.
For more clever ways to stay warm in Bend, check out this blog post.
Get great deals on lodging and activities
For budget-conscious travelers, Bend’s chillier months are the best time to score a screamin’ deal on Bend lodging. Shoulder season in particular (October through early-December, and January through April) is when you’ll find Bend hotels and vacation homes at rock bottom prices.
And don’t forget to check our Deals and Discounts page for special packages that can include things like extra nights or free lift tickets.
Rediscover the thrill of snow days
Remember when you were a kid and you spent winter evenings glued to the TV, watching for news that school was cancelled the next day? Few things were more thrilling than a snow day, and you can recapture that magic in Bend.
Grab your toboggan and hit the sledding hill. Gather the family for a snowball fight at one of Bend’s nearby Sno-Parks. Get creative by building snowmen together or flopping on your back to make a snow angel.
Take a twirl around the ice at The Pavillion, Central Oregon’s only full NHL-sized ice sheet. It’s fully-covered and protected on the sides by translucent panels to reduce wind and sun exposure while maintaining an open air feel
After your cold-weather playtime, reward yourself with a hot cup of cocoa (or a grownup alternative like coffee from one of Bend’s awesome coffeehouses or tea shops).
Adrenaline rush optional
I’ve heard more than one ski skeptic explain an aversion to winter recreation as disinterest in daredevilry. But there are tons of winter sports that require no adrenaline rush at all.
If skiing holds some appeal but you’d like to keep things mellow, check out the Nordic trails near Bend for a slower-paced version of skiing. Try your hand at snowshoeing, which is really just hiking with tennis racquets strapped to your feet (er, more or less).
Have someone hold your hand
If snowshoeing piques your interest but you’re nervous about traipsing out into the wilderness alone, a guided outing is a great option.
Book a snowshoe adventure with Wanderlust Tours and leave the gear, the planning, the driving, and the decision-making to someone else. Best of all, their naturalist guides will give you some awesome insights about our forests, the creatures in them, local history, and more.
Not so sure about snow? Wanderlust also does cave tours all year long!
But if you do want to learn to ski or snowboard…
If “I’m not a skier” is your perpetual reason for digging your heels in about a winter vacation, how about changing that?
Mt. Bachelor’s Ski or Ride in 5℠ is an award-winning lesson program designed for those “never-evers” who have not had previous experiences trying to learn to ski or snowboard.
It’s a five-lesson program with instruction by one of Mt. Bachelor’s hand-picked instructors based on their communication skills and overall success rate of coaching beginners. Included with each lesson is a ski or snowboard rental and daily lift ticket.
It’s a great—and surprisingly inexpensive—way to find out if you might be a skier or boarder after all.
At the Bend Visitor Center, we not only let people draw on the walls—we encourage it!
Once a year, Visit Bend chooses a local artist to create unique chalk drawings on the cement pillars in the Visitor Center lobby. The artist also has his or her framed work displayed and sold in the Visitor Center for the duration of his or her show. It’s part of the Pillars of Art program, which was created to introduce tourists to Bend’s unique arts and culture scene, and to support emerging local artists.
The newest Pillars of Art creator is Sweet Pea Cole. She’s a graduate of the University of Wyoming, and has lived in Bend for almost two decades. For her 2017-2018 Pillars of Art installment, she created an array of colorful, whimsical illustrations of people, birds, pets, bicycles, and other scenes sure to put a smile on your face.
You can see Sweet Pea’s work at the Bend Visitor Center from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can also check her out at www.sweetpeacole.com
We caught up with Sweet Pea recently and asked a few questions about her art, her life, and everything in between. Here’s what she shared with us:
Visit Bend: Where did you grow up, and how did you end up in Bend?
Sweet Pea: I grew up in Laramie, Wyoming. After mousing around the Pacific Northwest (Missoula, Montana; Seattle, Washington; Corvallis, Oregon) my husband and I landed in Bend in 1999. We were looking to return to big mountains and escape the rain of the west side of the Cascades. We thought that meant returning to the Rockies, but friends kept encouraging us to consider Bend. Upon arrival, we found sun and mountains and wonderful people, but were stunned by the lack of culture. Even to this girl from Wyoming, Bend seemed like a cultural desert. It’s been wonderful to see that aspect change.
Visit Bend: Tell us about your artistic training.
Sweet Pea: I’m self-taught, and I’ve been drawing and painting and creating my whole life. As I kid, I was always making things. I’d get an idea and I’d work at it until I found a way to make it a reality. I’m intensely DIY (do it yourself), but I also love reaching out to other artists for ideas and inspiration.
Visit Bend: How would you describe your artistic style?
Sweet Pea: My work is characterized by hand drawn lines, slightly shaken and smooth. There is an intended quirk to my work—a celebration of the slightly flawed reality that exists everywhere and for everyone.
Visit Bend: What’s your favorite medium?
Sweet Pea: Currently, my work is dominated by printmaking—specifically screen printing. But my favorite medium is whatever it takes to create the idea that is in my mind. That may be fabric or paper or wood.
Visit Bend: Who are your artistic influences?
Sweet Pea: Wes Anderson. Patti Smith. My contemporaries in the handmade/maker made realm. Street artists. It is an ever expanding list….
Visit Bend: What do you like best about living in Bend, and how does it influence your artistic style?
Sweet Pea: I love my community; the kind, energetic, creative, adventurous souls who I am lucky to call friends. Their generous spirits are at the core of so many of my ideas. Of course, I love the mountains… they are more requirement for my mental health than an influence on my work.
Visit Bend: What do you enjoy doing in Bend when you’re not creating art?
Sweet Pea: Skiing is my all-time favorite thing to do, ever. When I can’t do that, friends are visited, bikes are ridden, hikes are taken, camps are set up, etc. Also, a considerable amount of coffee is consumed.
Visit Bend: What’s your impression of the Bend art scene, and how do you think the Pillars of Art program fits with that?
Sweet Pea: As I mentioned before, the art scene in Bend has come a long way in the time I have enjoyed living here, though I think it is still in its infancy. I truly believe the work Visit Bend is doing to promote cultural appreciation and tourism is so important. Programs like Pillars of Art, Tin Pan Alley, and Tenth Month are vital for artists living in Bend because they draw attention to the city’s creative side.
There are many artists here, but it’s very challenging to sell art in Bend. In the past, you’ve had to take it somewhere else. People don’t come to Bend for the art. They come for mountains and rivers and all the outdoor activities. But by bringing awareness to Bend’s art scene, Visit Bend has positioned it as another great thing for tourists to see and do. They can come here to mountain bike, but also spend an evening checking out galleries or admiring the Pillars of Art at the Bend Visitor Center.
One great thing about Pillars of Art is that it doesn’t dictate what the art is going to be. Visitors get to walk in and see real artwork, rather than a crafted commercial piece.
Just because you’re all grown up doesn’t mean you should surrender the idea of experiencing Bend with the fun, carefree spirit of your youth. Here are 6 ways you can enjoy being a kid again on a Bend vacation.
Do the leaf pile pounce
Right now, Bend’s parks are teaming with glorious, multi-hued leaf piles just begging for you to leap right in.
Indulge yourself. Heck, bring your own rake so you can pile them up into a towering leaf mountain. Take a running jump and pounce on that pile like the goofball you are.
Then rake and repeat until your face hurts from giggling.
Go sledding, wage snowball battles, or build snowmen
We’re teetering on the brink between fall and winter, which means snow is starting to pile up near Mt. Bachelor.
It doesn’t take much searching to find an open field of snow where you can mold a few snowballs to toss at pals, or flop down on your back to make an old-fashioned snow angel.
If you’re feeling artsy, pack a carrot and a spare scarf and build yourself a snowman.
Once Mt. Bachelor opens for the season, you can enjoy an old-fashioned sledding experience (minus the need to lug your inner tube uphill) in their Snowblast Tubing Park. If you’d rather go it alone with your saucer sled or Flexible Flyer, check out this blog post for ideas on where to do some sledding in Bend.
Get your game on
Remember the thrill of visiting a video arcade with a pocketful of quarters and a steadfast determination to get the top score on Pac Man? You can recapture that experience—minus the quarters, but add in a beer—at Vector Volcano. It’s a vintage video arcade that charges a low flat fee for unlimited play.
If you want more than just video games, visit Sun Mountain Fun Center. They not only offer a wide array of arcade options, but also bumper cars, Go-Karts, mini golf, bowling, and more. The pizza here is surprisingly awesome, and your arcade play earns you tickets to cash in for prizes.
Sometimes, kids just need to burn off some energy. The same holds true for adults, and there’s no shame in venturing to an indoor arena like Mountain Air Trampoline Park for the chance to bounce around like a freakin’ lunatic.
The main court has 26 trampolines and is surrounded on two sides by angled trampoline walls. There’s also a super-long jumping and tumbling runway. Mountain Air even offers basketball and dodgeball, along with a giant airbag that’s crazy fun to leap onto from above.
Note to grownup ladies: Pack a sports bra for this one. You’ll thank me later.
Check out critters at High Desert Museum
The first time I visited the High Desert Museum in 1984, I was nine years old and they had only been open a couple years. I remember running around the 135-acre grounds checking out chipmunks and learning about birds of prey. It was the most fun I had all year.
Not much has changed.
Well, the museum itself has, with tons more exhibits and animals (including a newly-renovated otter exhibit and a brand new juvenile otter who just joined the existing two on display).
Even without my kids in tow, I love visiting the museum for the raptor show, the porcupine demo, or just to check out the latest exhibits. It’s fun for all ages, and consistently ranked by TripAdvisor as the top Central Oregon attraction.
Play with your food
When you were a kid, you heard the refrain over and over: “Don’t play with your food!”
But you did it anyway, because it was freakin’ fun.
While it’s not socially acceptable to waltz into Jackalope Grill and have a mashed potato fight, there are plenty of foods you can eat with your hands and have it be totally cool.
Pizza is a great pick for grub you can grab with both hands. My current fave is the pizza menu at 10 Barrel, which also boasts an impressive beer menu with recommended pairings for each pie. For a full list of Bend pizza spots, go here.
There’s snow in the mountains, frost on the grass, and predictions of a harsh winter slated to hit Bend for the 2017-2018 season.
In other words, it’s time to put away the kayak and start preparing for snowball fights, bluebird ski days, and slippery sidewalks. Here are 6 things you should start rounding up right now.
A good pair of gloves
Make that ten pairs of gloves, if you’re like me and have the tendency to misplace a pair or two. Or six.
Even if you’re not scatterbrained, it’s a good idea to have multiple pairs of gloves for other reasons. Days filled with snowshoeing, sledding, and snowball battles require thick, waterproof gloves or mittens that can protect your hands from the elements.
But when you’re just walking from your car to a restaurant or strolling Downtown Bend or the Old Mill District for a bit of shopping, it’s handier to have a thinner pair of driving gloves. Bonus points for the kind with the specially-designed fingertips that allow you to use a touchscreen phone (which makes for handy picture-taking in chilly conditions).
And I’ll be honest—I keep a stash of cheap, stretchy Dollar Store gloves in my purse at all times for unexpected glove-mergencies or to loan to pals or offspring who forget theirs.
A vessel to keep your beverages warm
I have three million Silipint cups and matching beverage lids, and this is how I drink my on-the-go tea about ninety percent of the time. They’re inexpensive, unbreakable, and keep my beverages at just the right temperature.
But when I need a hot drink at a kids’ soccer game, snowshoe adventure, or other outing that requires prolonged exposure to cold temps (not to mention leak-proof carrying) I turn to my Hydro Flask insulated mug. This bad boy keeps my hot drinks so hot that I’ve occasionally burned my tongue when sipping too fast.
But they’re perfect for cold winter conditions when you really need your drink to stay toasty. We sell them in a wide variety of sizes and colors at the Bend Visitor Center.
Your Mt. Bachelor pass
Want to save money on your Mt. Bachelor lift tickets or lessons? Plan ahead and buy in advance.
Their website is chock full of pre-sale info, package deals, and other info you’d never know about if you just showed up at the ticket window and plunked down your credit card.
Now is an especially good idea to scope out the schedule and discover dates for specific promotions that can help you save money.
You’ll also find a number of bargains on Visit Bend’s “Hot Deals” page, which frequently features package deals that include lodging and lift tickets. Cheapskates unite!
There is a time and a place for super-cute stilettos with shiny red soles. That time and that place are not Bend, Oregon in the winter.
No matter how diligent Bend retailers and City of Bend personnel are about keeping roads plowed and sidewalks de-iced, there will always be slick patches of ground lurking in the shade to yank your legs right out from under you.
Be smart with your footwear when you’re visiting Bend in the wintertime and invest in a good pair of rubber-soled flats or boots. Can’t find any in your hometown? No problem! You’ll discover lots of great Bend shopping options, and a new pair of winter boots would make a great Bend souvenir.
And if you really want to be cautious, grab a set of Yak Trax to give you extra traction on super-icy days.
Extra phone charging capability
Raise your hand if you deplete your phone’s battery about fifty times faster when you’re on vacation.
I’m raising mine, which makes it tough to type.
It’s not tough, however, to get your hands on an inexpensive, portable phone charger you can tuck in a purse or backpack during your Bend travels. That’s a great way to ensure you don’t run out of juice right when you want to snap a photo of Tumalo Falls or catch some video of your sweetie swooshing down the slopes at Mt. Bachelor.
For tips on where to shoot some of the quintessential Bend images everyone likes to snag, check out this post.
Advance reservations for…well, everything
Plenty of Bend winter days fall into the category of “shoulder season,” which is a slower time of year when you can score some killer deals on lodging and activities.
But there are lots of random dates you might not realize can fill up crazy-super-fast during Bend’s chillier seasons. Regions that have year-round school have holiday breaks at unusual times, which means Bend might see a sudden surge in visitors during odd weeks in November or February.
And it goes without saying the days surrounding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years can book up months (or even years) in advance.
If you’re planning a winter vacation, it pays to make early reservations for things like Bend lodging, guided tours, and even restaurants. That way you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your Bend vacation without scrambling for any of the essentials.
While beer fans can tackle the legendary Bend Ale Trail any month of the year, there’s something extra special about doing it in November.
Make that several somethings. November is Bend Ale Trail Month, and 2017 marks the fourth time we’ve enjoyed this month-long celebration of Bend’s craft beer scene.
What’s all the fuss about? Read on to learn what’s awesome about planning your Bend beerventure in November 2017.
What’s this about a trophy?
You can hit the Bend Ale Trail all year long and earn prizes for gathering passport stamps at the breweries. December through October, you earn a Silipint pint glass for racking up 10 passport stamps, and an additional bottle opener for hitting all 16.
But in November, that all changes. Yeah, you still get the Silipint and the bottle opener for accomplishing the aforementioned feat, but guess what else you get?
A freakin’ trophy, that’s what!
To earn it, just bring your completed Bend Ale Trail passport to the Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava Ave. and Oregon Ave. between November 1 and November 30. Ten passport stamps get you the trophy AND the Silipint, or hit all 16 to earn the bottle opener, too.
Oh, and just because you have a trophy from a previous season doesn’t mean you don’t want this one. We’ve released a brand new (and in my opinion, even cooler) trophy this year, so it’s a great chance to add to your collection.
Can I score more free stuff?
While the trophies are clearly the top prize during Bend Ale Trail Month, there’s plenty more schwag to go around in November.
The breweries are extra generous with prizes for Bend Ale Trail month, filling our conference room with all manner of goodies for us to give away. Hats, shirts, stickers, gift cards, Hydro Flasks, Silipints, and so much more can be yours with just a few taps of your phone screen.
Just snap a pic of your beerventure and share it on Instagram using the hashtag #bendaletrailmonth. We’ll randomly select winners to receive schwag throughout the month. Easy peasy!
What else can I win?
What, the trophy and the schwag aren’t enough for you?
Okay, how about a free Bend vacation!
Everyone who brings a completed Bend Ale Trail atlas to the Bend Visitor Center and completes a quick survey (you’ve gotta do both!) will be entered to win a Bend beercation that includes two nights of lodging at Wall Street Suites, gift certificates for two awesome adventures with Wanderlust Tours, and a Brew it Yourself beermaking session at Immersion Brewing.
Er, what if I can’t drink all that beer?
If you want to spend your Bend Ale Trail adventure sipping your way through creamy porters and hoppy IPAs, rock on with your bad self.
But you’re not required to drink a single drop of beer. You do have to show up in person at each brewery to get your passport stamped, of course. But eating, drinking, or buying anything at all is optional. This is good news for teetotalers and designated drivers.
And while kids under 21 aren’t allowed to participate in the Bend Ale Trail program, they’ll find plenty of non-alcoholic selections along the trail. My personal fave: The root beer and ginger beer brewed up fresh at Deschutes Brewery.
If you’re a fan of adult beverages but just not beer, flip your Bend Ale Trail atlas to the Drinkable Diversions page. That’s where you’ll find a roundup of awesome distilleries, cideries, wineries, and kombucha brewers who’d be happy to hook you up with locally-made craft beverages of a different sort.
What else do I need to know?
If you do plan to swill beer during your Bend Ale Trail journey, it’s important to be smart about consumption. A few quick tips:
Eat a hearty meal before you set out, and plan to nosh at a couple breweries along the way.
- Take frequent water breaks. Tote your own Hydro Flask, or ask your server to set you up with a big glass of ice water.
- Opt for smaller schooners instead of full pints of beer, or stick with samples.
- Share a taster tray with a pack of friends so everyone can try a wide variety of beer without overindulging.
- Don’t try to hit all the breweries in one weekend. Take it nice and slow!
- Make a plan before you set out, including how many breweries you plan to hit and how you’ll get safely back to your Bend hotel or vacation rental.
And speaking of being responsible…
Don’t even think of drinking and driving. Seriously.
There are gazillion ways to travel between breweries without risking a DUI or someone’s life. Here are just a few of them:
- Walk. Especially if the weather’s nice. It’s a great way to see Bend.
- Arrange a shuttle, a pedicab, or even a Segway outing with The Bend Tour Company.
- Book a half-day tour with The Bend Brew Bus.
- Hit the trail on a horse-drawn carriage with Cowboy Carriage Company.
- Pedal a bicycle made for 14 with The Cycle Pub of Bend.
- Head out with in a 1980s-style trolley with The Bend Trolley.
- Travel the trail in style with a limo from JD’s Car Service.
- Call a cab.
- Download the app for Uber or Lyft and hitch a ride with one of countless local drivers now serving these rideshare programs.
I’m kinda worried about those beer calories…
Planning to visit Bend for Bend Ale Trail month, but fretting about your belt getting too tight? Never fear! Sign up for the Bend Ale Run on November 11 and fit in a little cardio with your fellow beer-lovers.
There’s a half-marathon and a 10k, plus an option to pedal the course for cyclists. You can even opt to walk it with a generous 5-hour time slot for completion.
To learn more and to register, go here.
Is there an app for that?
Not in the mood to pack the Bend Ale Trail atlas with you everywhere you go? No problem!
Save trees and keep everything tucked neatly in your pocket when you check in at all your stops using the handy Bend Ale Trail app.
It’s free to download for iPhone and Android devices, and you can gather virtual stamps right there in the app (not to mention plotting your route, reading up on each brewery, and finding a place to stay). Download the app here.
Whatever factors into your selection of a Bend restaurant, bathrooms probably don’t play a role. But maybe they should.
Here are six Bend eateries whose awesomely-original privies will have you taking extra potty breaks.
10below Restaurant & Lounge
The ladies room features brightly-colored doors, funky chandeliers, cool art on the walls, and a long, sloped sink that spans half the room and will tempt you to spend hours washing your hands.
I will confess I’ve had dinner dates where I’ve intentionally made two trips to the restroom just to spend more time in this surprisingly luxurious space.
Luckily, there’s more to enjoy at 10below than just the bathroom. Their happy hour is one of the best in town, with both early and late-night options to be had. Try the house-smoked pacific salmon spread or the flat iron roasted cauliflower and crispy brussels with hazelnut gremolata and tahini.
If it’s dinner you’re after, go for the Draper Valley crispy chicken with Dungeness crab, braised spinach, asparagus, rice pilaf, and sauce hollandaise. Pair it with something from their killer wine list, or opt for a selection from their awesome cocktail menu, like the Secret Garden with muddled cucumber and lime, Hendrick’s gin, grapefruit liqueur, and thyme simple syrup.
Bonus: An extra drink gives you one more excuse to visit the restroom. You’re welcome.
A relative newcomer to the Bend Ale Trail, beautifully-built Immersion Brewing is also one of the newest breweries in Bend. If you’re out there trekking Bend’s trail of beer, plan a potty stop here to scope out their amazing industrial-modern restrooms.
Seriously, the sink? Awesome. Everything about it from the water pressure gauges to the flat stone top (angled back oh-so-very-slightly to let water drain) is a work of art.
The beer here is pretty awesome as well, with their “Beer Box” taster tray offering you the best option to sample several of their yummy brews. If you’re ordering just one pint, pick “Get Along Little Hoppies,” a limited-time, seasonal fresh hop beer with proceeds going to the Herd U Needed a Home herding dog rescue organization in Bend.
And even though I’m not normally a dessert fanatic, their Crème brûlée seriously made me swoon.
Extra credit: Since Immersion Brewing is just a short walk from Crux Fermentation Project, you may as well meander that direction for another delicious pint and the chance to scope out their restrooms wallpapered entirely in pages from vintage brewing guides.
Anthony’s Home Port
I love the ladies room layout at Anthony’s Home Port in the Old Mill District almost as much as I love their ahi nachos, which is saying a lot.
Each bathroom stall has its own private sink and mirror behind a locked door, which adds a nice level of privacy and luxury to your bathroom experience.
When I emailed a marketing colleague in the Old Mill District and told him about my love of the Anthony’s restrooms, he generously offered to snap a pic. What I didn’t anticipate (but probably should have) is that he’d give me a glimpse of the men’s room.
While the menfolk at Anthony’s may not get individual sinks in each stall and pretty-smelling soap, they do get televisions—yes, individual television sets!—above each urinal. How cool is that?
When you’re not hanging out in the bathroom watching TV or washing your hands at your own private sink, try the aforementioned ahi machos with one of their stellar wine flights.
If you don’t mind eating a bit early, their weekday Sunset Dinner Specials offered until 6 p.m. are one of the best deals in town and include an appetizer, chowder or soup, your entrée, and a dessert for one super-low price.
McMenamins Old St. Francis School
If you’re feeling nostalgic for elementary school, journey back in time with dinner and a bathroom break at McMenamins Old St. Francis School.
Located in Downtown Bend, this former 1930s Catholic schoolhouse underwent a transformation in 2004, morphing into a hotel complete with classrooms-turned-lodging rooms, multiple pubs, a brewery, movie theater, event space, and an amazing saltwater soaking pool.
It’s a great place to explore, taking in artwork and memorabilia that pays homage to the history of the school. You’ll find that in the restrooms as well, where vintage sinks, urinals, and décor take you right back to your grade school days.
Staying at McMenamins is a fabulous idea, but if you’re not doing that, at least make time to grab a beer at one of the pubs (O’Kanes is my personal fave) and plan a soak in the pool. No visit to McMenamins is complete without an order of their Cajun tots, so make sure to add those to your pub order, along with a pint of Ruby.
10 Barrel’s Eastside Pub
Bend visitors who stick to the city’s popular Westside might never realize there’s a burgeoning dining scene on the quieter east end of the city.
Case in point, 10 Barrel Brewing’s Eastside Pub, which opened at the start of summer 2017. The space boasts plentiful outdoor seating, fire pits, an impressive tap list, incredible food, and a super-cool rustic/industrial vibe.
That vibe extends to the bathrooms, with sleek-looking stone sinks and stalls constructed from what looks like repurposed barn wood. Note: Don’t rub against the stalls, as they’re a bit splintery. But if you’re in the habit of rubbing body parts on bathroom walls, you have bigger issues than I can address in this blog post.
10 Barrel’s selection of pizzas changes regularly to take advantage of what’s seasonal. My current fave (and likely to disappear soon as we shift into fall) is the Summer Pie, featuring an avocado cream base, roasted poblano, zucchini, squash, smoked corn, and cherry tomato. I add pancetta to appease my carnivorous instincts.
My stepdaughter is obsessed with the Jaca, which has garlic cream sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, pulled pork, sausage, pineapple, and jalapenos. You’ll also find an awesome array of salads, wraps, and appetizers among the pub fare. Whatever you order, make sure to pair it with something from their beer menu, or treat yourself to the ten-sample taster tray.
Bonus round: Newport Avenue Market
Okay, technically this isn’t a restaurant. But it may as well be, considering Newport Avenue Market offers a staggering array of foodie-friendly culinary treats, ranging from freshly-made sushi and deli items, to artisan cheeses, locally-raised meats, produce, and gourmet goodies.
In other words, this is where you want to go for picnic supplies or to stock the kitchen in your Bend vacation rental.
Grocery store bathrooms are often a little odd, requiring a trek through stockrooms or employee breakrooms to reach a space that always feels a bit like you’re not supposed to be there. While the journey to reach the Newport Market restroom is no different, the space itself is a delightfully-surprising oasis of happy.
The space features brightly-colored tile work, flowers on the counter, and walls lined with photos of employees’ pets. Spend a few moments getting your zen on in the bathroom (or whatever else you do in there). Then wash your hands, grab a shopping cart, and stock up on French bread, gourmet cheese, artisan meats, a few grapes or pears, and a killer bottle of wine. Voila! Instant picnic, and you’re already in your happy space to enjoy it.
Everyone has a time of year they love more than any other in Bend, and for me, that time is now.
Nights have turned chilly and trees have gone from ablaze in the literal sense (@#$% forest fires) to ablaze in autumnal hues of red, orange, and yellow leaves. Crowds have thinned out, but the weather is still warm enough that I can enjoy an afternoon of SUPing on my favorite lake and have the whole place to myself.
Sound awesome? It is! Here are five things that make fall a stupendous time of year to be in Bend, Oregon.
The best of both weather worlds
Last weekend, Mt. Bachelor became the first ski area in North America to offer skiing and snowboarding in advance of the 2017-18 winter season when they created a free walk-up terrain park and offered “snow-seeing” chairlift rides.
Today, it’s 80-degrees in Bend and I’m plotting ways to escape work early for some standup paddleboarding on the Deschutes.
Fall is the time of year in Bend when you’ll see the greatest swoops in weather condition, and for those who crave variety, it’s a wonderful thing to behold.
Farewell to the crowds
As someone who works in tourism promotion, I’m the last person to whine about summertime crowds in Bend. Nevertheless, I’ll admit I experience Bend differently when things quiet down in autumn and I have the luxury of solitude in so many of my favorite spots.
Hiking trails get quieter. Wait times are shorter at my favorite restaurants. When I get distracted gawking at autumn leaves while strolling the streets of downtown Bend, I’m a lot less likely to run my clumsy face into someone doing the same thing.
If you come to Bend for tranquility and quiet, fall is a great time to find it.
Save a bundle during shoulder season
In Bend, our shoulder season happens from late-fall to early-winter and then again in early spring (by contrast, peak times are summer break, winter break, and spring break).
In other words, October is pretty much the perfect time to plan a Bend vacation. Crowds are smaller, prices are lower, and the weather is still pretty mild.
For the inside scoop on shoulder season deals, check out our Deals and Discounts page.
Oh, the events!
Some of my very favorite events take place in Bend this time of year. Though we’ve already had Oktoberfest, the Bend Fall Festival is coming up October 6-8 with three days of live music, abundant food, and plenty of things to do for kids. There’s also a Harvest Market, a Fine Artist Promenade, and the ever-popular Pumpkin Carving Contest.
October also ushers in Tenth Month, which is a month-long celebration of brave ideas and innovation in art, film, marketing, technology, and design. It includes events like the BendFilm Festival, Bend Venture Conference, Bend Design Conference, and Swivel, which makes the whole month of October a pretty inspiring time to be in Central Oregon.
And can I just add an extra shout-out here for the BendFilm Festival? It’s seriously one of my favorite events in Bend for the entire year, which is high praise coming from someone who generally doesn’t love movies at all (hashtag booksnob). The films are amazing, the parties are excellent, and it’s a terrific opportunity to rub shoulders with actors, directors, filmmakers, and other assorted creatives. There’s a vibe in Bend during BendFilm Festival that’s unlike anything you’ll experience other times of year, and I can’t wait for the event to kick off October 12-15.
The tastiest time of year
A lot of great Bend restaurants have found a niche serving up seasonal, locally grown produce, and there’s something about fall’s bounty that seems to bring out the best stuff.
Chow is currently cranking out magical meals featuring locally-sourced sweet pickled corn, organic kale, and housemade raw beet noodles. If that sounds too veggie-centric for you, you’ll be happy to know they’ve also been crafting fabulous dishes with so-fresh-it’s-still-mooing Cascade Angus natural beef.
If you’d prefer to handle food prep on your own, don’t forget the Bend Farmers Market is still going through October 11. Now’s a great time to stock up on fresh produce and flowers, not to mention enjoying live music and a great chance to stroll at the edge of Mirror Pond while the weather’s still warm.
And don’t get me started on all the amazing seasonal beers you’ll find along the Bend Ale Trail right now. Creamy stouts, hoppy IPAs, and a plethora of barrel-aged brews, seasonal sours, and the occasional pumpkin beer. Cheers to fall in Bend!
Snow fans who keep watch over the Mt. Bachelor webcams rejoiced this week as snow began falling for the first time this season.
For those feeling less thrilled about the return of the white stuff, don’t worry—the current weather forecast shows a string of days in the 70s and 80s next week, so you still have time to fit in a few more days of hiking, biking, paddling, and picnicking outdoors.
But for those who get giddy at the thought of a winter vacation, here are 10 things that might be going through your head right now.
#1: “I wonder if I should make reservations…”
#2: “I love good food. I wonder who makes the best burgers/wings/sushi/vegan food in Bend?”
You’re in luck! We recently rounded up nearly seven years’ worth of our “best of” drinking and dining posts, and you’ll find them all right here.
#3: “How much duct tape is too much on my ski jacket?”
If you have to ask, it’s time for a new one. Lucky for you, lots of Bend retailers are having killer sales right now, so hop out there and do some Bend shopping to restock all your winter gear.
#4: “Where is that @#$% ice scraper?”
I’m right there with ya in needing to dig through my car to ensure I have what I need for winter driving. Now’s a great time to stock up on antifreeze, locate your tire chains, and maybe sign up for a class to help prepare you for driving in icy conditions.
#5: “Do dogs wear shoes?”
Hey, it’s a legit question, especially when it comes to protecting Rover’s paws from the cold. Bend-based Ruffwear makes a wide variety of boots created just for dogs. You’ll find those, along with other awesome options at locally-owned Bend Pet Express. They carry one of my favorite products, Musher’s Secret, which is a dense, barrier wax that forms a breathable bond with your dog’s paws. Bend Pet Express also sells Ultra Paws Durable Dog boots, which are a little less expensive than the Ruffwear ones and meant more for the everyday walker.
#6: “I wonder if Mt. Bachelor has any pre-season deals on passes?”
They sure do! Check out their website for all the latest and greatest sales, but now is definitely the time to buy if you want to save some cash and plan ahead for what’s shaping up to be a killer season for snow sports.
#7: “Crap. Have I missed my last opportunity to try standup paddleboarding or go for that hike?
Don’t worry! Like I mentioned earlier, we’ll have several days next week warming into the low 80s, so you’ll be able to squeeze in a few more days of sunny fun. But beyond that, here’s the cool thing about Bend—while Mt. Bachelor sees an average snowfall of 462 inches, the city of Bend averages less than 24. That means that even in the dead of winter, it’s totally possible to ski powder all morning, then drive 20 minutes down the hill to spend your afternoon golfing, hiking on dry trails, or mountain biking 277 miles of sweeping singletrack.
#8: “Do snowflakes really look like those things I used to cut out of paper in third grade?”
Kinda. We can all thank Lookie Loo Portraits of Bend, Oregon for snagging some of our absolute favorite snowflake close-ups last season, and you can see from the pics that they’re pretty unique. And to address the other thing you’re wondering about whether it’s true no two snowflakes are alike, that’s also true. While it isn’t possible to compare every snowflake that’s ever fallen, the fact that each flake is made up of 10 quintillion water molecules growing at different rates and in different patterns in different temperatures means it’s highly unlikely that any two are identical. There’s your deep thought for the day.
#9: “All right, so I’m seriously considering a Bend winter vacation this year. I wonder what else there is to do there?”
Oh, man. What can’t you do in Bend? The area offers everything from arts and culture to the legendary Bend Ale Trail. You can try a cave adventure with Wanderlust Tours, or try the tallest commercial bungee jump in North America. The possibilities are endless, so start browsing at www.visitbend.com to see what piques your interest. You can also check our Event Calendar to see what’s happening around town on the dates you’d like to visit.
#10: “I’d sure like to help Tawna out by shoveling her driveway this winter.”
Why thank you! That’s so very kind. Shall I post a signup sheet on this blog, or would you like to just drop by with your shovel after our first big storm of the season? Let me know and I’ll have the cocoa ready for you.
Anyone who’s spent time on the Bend Ale Trail knows Bend has a reputation as a beer town.
Creative cocktails are popping up everywhere in Bend, not just in distillery tasting rooms like Oregon Spirit Distillers’ Barrel Thief Lounge and Bend Distillery’s new Crater Lake Spirits Downtown Tasting Room (though those are both excellent spots to get your drink on). You’ll find them in unique places like Worthy Brewing, which not only boasts awesome beer, but the mix master who won the 2017 Bartender’s Brawl.
So where else can you find super-creative and inspired cocktails in Bend? Here are five of the most unique offerings you’ll find around town!
The Smoked Bos Manhattan at Bos Taurus
A relative newcomer to Bend’s drinking and dining scene, Bos Taurus is a boutique downtown steakhouse that boasts a custom cast-iron slab designed for the perfect sear on all their meats.
But it’s the Smoked Bos Manhattan that sets them apart on the cocktail side of the equation.
The drink features Bulleit Bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters, along with a healthy helping of cherry wood smoke served up in a cool-looking cork vessel that holds in all that beautiful smoke.
In a nutshell, it looks freakin’ cool.
Pop out the cork and splash it into a tumbler garnished with lemon peel and a big ice cube. Cheers!
The Duck Fat Sazarac at Drake
Yes, you read that right. A Sazerac made with duck fat. Well, there’s more to it than that.
Order this unique concoction at Drake and you’ll be treated to a mind-blowing cocktail made from a blend of duck fat-infused rye bourbon, absinthe, sugar, and bitters with a twist.
To answer the question, yes, you really can taste a difference between this and a standard Sazarac. The duck fat adds a unique richness of flavor and an oh-so-subtle texture that had me grabbing it back from my husband several times and saying, “let me try that again.” He declared it one of the most unique cocktails he’s ever had.
For those who want a backup drink that’s unique but not as bold, try the Drakeside made with Earl Grey-infused gin, mint, and lime. Be sure to order some nibbles here, too, since the culinary offerings are out-of-this world. Their shrimp and grits are my favorite, or try the tasty salt-roasted marrow bones with carrot jam, salsa verde, and toast if you’re on a roll with sampling something new.
The Flaming Strawberry Lemon Drop at Level 2
If Bo Taurus hits it out of the park with a drink that features smoke, Level 2 nails it with one that’s actually on fire.
The Flaming Strawberry Lemon Drop features 11 vodka, strawberry puree, fresh lemon juice, triple sec, limoncello, and a flaming float of 151 rum. It’s sort of like a normal strawberry lemon drop, but with flames. Did I mention fire?
(Here’s where a cooler blogger would insert a gif of Beavis and Butthead saying, “fire’s cool.” You’ll have to imagine it, okay?)
Going back to the drinks, I’ll confess that my original plan was to spotlight the Bubblegum Lemon Drop at Level 2, since they make their own house-infused bubblegum vodka (Double Bubble gum, in case you’re wondering) with fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and a sugared rim. It’s definitely unique, and tastes just like a mouthful of Bazooka Bubble Gum. A little sweet for my taste, but worth a try if that’s your jam.
Order the Ahi Tuna Poke (served with sticky rice, sesame soy vinaigrette, wasabi cream, macadamia nuts, fresh pineapple, and crispy wontons) to give you something to nibble.
The Red Mosquito at Rockin’ Dave’s Backstage Lounge
The unique cocktails at Rockin’ Daves Backstage Lounge take on a more subtle quality with unique twists on classic cocktails and housemade infusions.
The Red Mosquito is a play off a traditional Old Fashioned, but it’s made with Dave’s house-infused hot cherry bourbon in place of regular bourbon, then mixed with sugar, bitters, orange, and a cocktail cherry.
Another great option is the Yellow Ledbetter, made with their own house-infused spicy cucumber gin mixed with dry vermouth and an orange twist.
Bonus points here for the intimate location outside the hustle and bustle of Downtown or the Old Mill, plus their happy hour and nightly specials kick some serious butt. Order the deviled egg trio or a half-pound of their bacon wings with Jamaican habanero sauce to make your tummy happy.
Uh . . . pretty much anything at Dogwood Cocktail Cabin
I know this is kind of cheating, but there’s virtually nothing you could order off the menu at Dogwood Cocktail Cabin without your taste buds perking up and saying, “oh my—what was that?”
For the first year this funky, urban cocktail lounge was open, I made it my mission to sample everything on their uber-creative cocktail menu. I soon learned this was impossible without (a) destroying my liver, and (b) having to start all over again because they’re always adding new and unique drinks.
But a few of my faves include:
The Beetnik: Beet-infused vodka with ginger and lemon served up. This one’s for you, fans of earthy-tasting infusions.
Mr. Pink: Pink peppercorn-infused vodka (yes, you really, really do taste those peppercorns and they’re fabulous!) with peach, peach bitters, and cava, served on the rocks.
Shiso Thirsty: Sake, pickled soybeans, and shiso leaf (it’s a little like mint, but more grassy and herbal. A unique flavor for sure!)
The Herban cowboy: Black pepper-infused bourbon, Fernet Branca, pomegranate, molasses, black licorice, and orange peel. If that’s not a flavor explosion, I don’t know what is.
They’ve got a pretty rockin’ happy hour from 5-7 daily with drinks and snacks at 25% off, so order a round of their crispy Brussels sprouts and a plate of surf-n-turf tacos and plan on sampling a couple cocktails.
Pro tip: Go with friends and make everyone order something different so you can all try sips of several different cocktails.